Rachel Unthank & The Winterset
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About Rachel Unthank & The Winterset
Based in Northumbria, in the north-east corner of England, this all-female folk quartet was formed in 2004 by Rachel Unthank (vocals/cello), Becky Unthank (vocals), Belinda OHooley (piano/vocals), and Jackie Oates (viola/vocals). The Unthank sisters were raised in a musical household, with their father George having sung with the folk harmony group the Keelers, and from an early age they were to be found clog dancing at festivals. Rachel, the elder by eight years, started off as a solo singer in the late 90s before being joined by her younger sister. When they decided to make an album in the mid-00s, Rabble Rouser label boss Adrian McNally put the sisters in contact with OHooley and Oates. OHooleys jazzy piano playing permeated the quartets acclaimed debut, Cruel Sister, but it was the Unthanks mesmerising vocals on material by Cyril Tawney (On A Monday Morning) and Nick Drake (River Man) that particularly enamoured critics, with Rachels pure singing voice offset by her sisters husky tones.
During sessions for the follow-up album, Niopha Keegan was brought in as a replacement for Oates. The Bairns was given a wider release through the auspices of EMI Records, as befitting one of the finest folk albums of the century. Alongside stunning interpretations of the traditional Felton Lonnin and Newcastle Lullaby, the album also included an ambitious take on Robert Wyatts Sea Song and two OHooley originals, Blackbird and Whitehorn. With the groups profile reaching new heights, Stef Conner was brought in as a replacement for the departing OHooley.